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---------- Forwarded message ---------From: Christopher Benfey <cbenfey@mtholyoke.

edu>
Date: Sun, May 8, 2016 at 4:57 PM
Subject: Oak Tree at 666 South East Street
To: townmanager@amherstma.gov
Cc: David Ziomek <ZiomekD@amherstma.gov>, "selectboard@amherstma.gov"
<selectboard@amherstma.gov>, Guilford Mooring <mooringg@amherstma.gov>, Mickey
Rathbun <mickey.rathbun@gmail.com>

666 South East Street


Amherst, MA 01002
10 May 2016

To the Amherst Select Board:

The pending proposal by the DPW to remove a white oak tree from the east side of South East
Street on our property has become sufficiently controversial that we believe it would be counterproductive to proceed with the proposal.

We hereby wish to add our voices to those opposing removal of the tree.

South East Street is a picturesque old farm road, without sidewalks for much of its extent from
Route 9 to South Amherst, and with narrow to non-existent shoulders. Posted speed limits are
routinely ignored, posing danger to joggers, dog-walkers, cyclists, and drivers who all compete
for access to this scenic road.

We believe that the initial proposal to remove the tree was part of a good-faith effort by the DPW
to improve sight-lines on the curving hill at 666 South East Street, pursuant to John Musantes
call for further examination of this dangerous stretch of road. Concerns about the many accidents
and near-accidents on or near the hill had led to the posting of a DANGEROUS CURVE sign,
among other welcome new signage on the street. Town Engineer Jason Skeels had earlier slated
the tree for removal, telling us that he would place itbecause of its proximity to the road,
because it obscured sight-lines of drivers coming north over the hill, and because it leaned into
the road as it competed for sunlight with another oak very close by--on the list of trees to be cut
down for safety reasons.

Removal of the oak tree seemed a non-controversial response to occluded sight-lines--an easy
fix, as Town Director of Conservation David Ziomek put it.

But once Tree Warden (and DPW employee charged with tree care and pest control) Alan Snow
announced his opposition to removing the tree, controversy erupted. The Daily Hampshire
Gazette ran two illustrated front-page articles about the tree in limbo; a group of Northampton
sixth-graders wrote a letter to the Gazette protesting the genocide of the tree; two Amherst
artists announced a weeklong painting protest and set up their easels by our driveway; a
camera crew from TV News 22 in Springfield knocked on our door requesting an interview.


All this pointless public theater could have been avoided, of course, if the DPW had settled on a
plan of action before bringing their disagreements concerning removal of the tree before the
Planning Board, the Scenic Road Committee, and, now, the Select Board. We believe that Mr.
Snow deliberately linked removal of the tree in the publics mind with the towns earlier
opposition to moving our driveway to increase safety on the road. In public notices, he identified
the purpose of the trees removal as to improve line of sight at residential driveway, as though
the only possible interest served was our own and not the safety of drivers and others using the
street. The Gazette took its cue from Mr. Snow, mentioning our contested driveway as part of the
story; under the circumstances, we fear that outrage concerning removal of the tree will
inevitably be directed at us personally.

Removal of the oak tree was never a centerpiece of proposed efforts to improve safety on a
dangerous hill and a dangerous road. We now fear that the needless controversy surrounding the
tree will preclude other potentially more effective proposals, such as speed bumps, warning
lights, stop signs, speed monitors, increased police presence, and other possible measures that we
have urged the town to consider.

It should be noted that the Tree Warden is now effectively dictating traffic safety, an area in
which he has no formal expertise, for the Town of Amherst. We would feel more confident about
the DPWs commitment to increased safety on the road if DPW head Guilford Mooring or Alan
Snow had suggested alternative measures to tree removal. Instead, Mr. Mooring has publicly
expressed his skepticism that improved signage is effective in slowing traffic, while dismissing
calls for more radical measures. Mr. Snow, for his part, is committed to what he calls a
European concept for traffic-calming, in which obscured sight-lines, blind driveways, and
other obstacles are seen as contributing to lower speeds. At least one Planning Board member
suggested that removing the tree might promote higher speeds. When we asked Mr. Snow what
his advice to us would be, he suggested that we might make our own hand-painted signs to plead
for slower speeds, or perhaps begin a movement to reduce speed limits town-wide.

In requesting that the town leave the oak tree where it stands, we are not relinquishing our efforts
to hold the town accountable for promoting safety for all users of South East Street. We are,
instead, calling for your redoubled efforts.

Sincerely,

Christopher Benfey
Mickey Rathbun